The FBI removed the far-left group Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) from its hate-crime resource list last week. The listing disappeared without official explanation after the Family Research Council (FRC), along with 14 other conservative groups, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey on Feb. 10 asking the FBI to stop promoting the organization.
A hate crime is defined as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.” The FBI helps prosecute those responsible for hate crimes. Until last week, the agency recommended the SPLC as a resource to learn more about hate crimes. But conservative groups have long questioned the SPLC’s motives.
“SPLC is a heavily politicized organization producing biased and inaccurate data on ‘hate groups’—not hate crimes,” wrote William G. Boykin, FRC’s executive vice president, in the letter to the FBI.
While SPLC claims it “monitors hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States,” it does not differentiate between those who promote violence and those who simply have opposing points of views. For example, the SPLC listed the American College of Pediatricians, American Family Association, and the FRC on its 2013 group hate list in a section entitled, “general hate—Anti-LGBT.” Yet none of those organizations have promoted violence against LGBT people, nor do they claim to hate them.
“As a Christian organization, we have an obligation to love our neighbor—including our neighbors who experience same-sex attractions,” wrote Rob Schwarzwalder, senior vice president at FRC. “We are happy to debate those who disagree with us regarding the harms of homosexual conduct, but there is no justification for anyone to impugn our motives with false labels such as ‘hate.’”
The SPLC itself has been the motivation for at least one hate crime: In August 2012, Floyd Corkins entered FRC’s Washington, D.C., headquarters with a semi-automatic pistol and fired at the building manager. Despite being wounded, the building manager stopped Corkins from harming anyone else. According to the FBI, Corkins said he had planned to kill as many people as possible at FRC because he found the group listed on SPLC’s “Hate Map.” In February 2013, Corkins pleaded guilty to three charges, including domestic terrorism.
Last October, a U.S. Army soldier at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, presented a slide show that listed the American Family Association as a “hate group.” The soldier later revealed he found the organization on SPLC’s “Hate Map.” The incident sparked a firestorm of criticism.
“The Southern Poverty Law Center’s mission to push anti-Christian propaganda is inconsistent with the mission of both the military and the FBI,” Tony Perkins, FRC’s president, told the Washington Examiner. "We commend the FBI for removing website links to the Southern Poverty Law Center. … We hope this means the FBI leadership will avoid any kind of partnership with the SPLC.”